DEAR HARRIETTE: The rising number of school shootings has taken a toll on my children, especially my high school-age son. After the Parkland, Florida, shooting, he asked questions like, “Why would he do that?” Through our conversations, I have explained to him that sometimes these shootings can result from bullying and mental illness. He is still afraid to go to school. Every morning, he says he’s sick, hoping I will let him stay home.
In times like these, when violence seems to be increasing and schools do not seem safe, how do I teach my children that it is OK to live and not be afraid? -- Mother Needs Answers, Denver
DEAR MOTHER NEEDS ANSWERS: You are right to be concerned. What the most recent shooting in Parkland, Florida, proves is that this horrific type of mass murder can occur anywhere. The good news, if you can call it that, is that many of the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have organized and are making their voices heard to lawmakers, both locally and nationally. They have become activists against gun violence in schools and are trying to force lawmakers to revisit the legal status of semiautomatic weapons.
Encourage your son to have a voice as well. He can write to your representatives in the state legislature, to the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, and to the president of the United States to express his concerns. Becoming active in the struggle can be empowering. He can advocate ways that his own school can become safer. Encourage your son to speak about his fears and desires for safety. This may help him to feel less afraid. If needed, you can also talk to the psychologist at his school to ask for mental health support.